Remembering Alberto da Pra

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On April 5, 2022, the founder and president of WBF Worldwide Backgammon Federation left for his final journey. At the behest of the family, the news initially remained confidential.

Alberto was a very unique type. Born in 1929, he trained as an engineer. He did not fall in love with Backgammon until later in his life, but he immediately made himself known for his personality. He began attending the circuit of international Backgammon tournaments, together with the world champion Gigi Villa, with whom he organised several tournaments – in particular Sanremo. He was always accompanied on his travels by his wife Maria, who was also passionate about the game. In the meantime, Alberto held the role of referee of the Monte-Carlo World Championship final for many years and created, together with Gigi Villa and James Ballié, the BEA (European Backgammon Association). As a player he won a Summer edition of the St Moritz Backgammon tournament.

In 1986 he had an intuition: the world of Backgammon lacked a real Federation, capable of spreading this game among new players, standardising the game and tournament rules, and supervising and coordinating tournaments with the utmost transparency and fairness. But his greatest intuition was to define Backgammon “the Sport of Mind”, detaching it from that reputation of a game often associated with gambling.

Alberto and I met in 1986 and he immediately invited me to collaborate with him for the new-born WBF. Alberto was my mentor: together we have organised and directed many events and it is impossible to list them all. Thanks to my activity as a journalist, together with Alberto we have also created several Backgammon columns, in particular for Giochi Magazine (1987 and 1988) and for Capital (1992/1995). After 36 years, WBF is still alive and well and, during its existence, has organised and promoted some of the most important tournaments in the world, including the Backgammon Olympics, the European Championship, the Italian Championship, the Mitteleuropa Championship and the prestigious Merit Open tournaments in Northern Cyprus, Croatia and Montenegro.

Over time Alberto da Pra had carved out the role of “noble father of Backgammon” and when he participated in international tournaments he was always designated as president of the Tournament Committee. His last participation in an international tournament dates back to September 2011, when he participated with his wife Maria at the 20th Mitteleuropa Backgammon Championship in Baden bei Wien, just outside Wien. Following tournament he participated less, reserving his energy for tournaments near to Milan, the city where he has always lived.

In recent years he was struggling to leave the house and did not like to see his Backgammon friends, he probably felt aged and wanted to leave his friends with the memory of when he was still full of energy. His activity in the world of Backgammon will not be lost and to honour his memory the European Championship will be named after him, thus becoming the European Championship – Memorial Alberto da Pra.

Marco Fornasir – WBF General Secretary

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